Gift Will Help UB Promote Health and Wellness in WNY

By Cynthia Machamer

Release Date: August 2, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Public Health and Health Professions will use a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to benefit the eight counties of Western New York.

The foundation has given $19,367 from the J. Warren Perry and Charles Donald Perry Memorial Fund to help establish the Western New York Wellness Works Regional Resource Center to assess, direct and research work-site health initiatives with scientific rigor and community sensitivity.

J. Warren Perry was founding dean of the UB School of Health Related Professions, which combined with the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in 2003 to create the School of Public Health and Health Professions. The school presents an annual J. Warren Perry Health Leadership Award. Perry's generous support of the school has included a $100,000 gift in 2003, endowed scholarships for students in the departments of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences and Rehabilitation Science, and a gift that established the Dr. J. Warren Perry lecture series, begun in 1988.

The center is an extension of the Western New York Wellness Works program in the School of Public Health and Health Professions. It was established in 2004 by a $1 million grant from the Office of Senator Mary Lou Rath and the New York State Department of Health. This year, Rath helped secure an additional $500,000 to support the goals of the project.

It will play an important role in identifying and implementing effective solutions to contain and decrease health-care expenditures and premiums, improve the health of populations and individuals and increase business productivity. It will achieve these goals by targeting at-risk and minority populations, small-business employers, and other special populations in Western New York by providing health promotion and work-site wellness research findings, health risk assessments and educational materials.

"The Perry brothers hoped to facilitate innovations important for the well-being of the Western New York community," said Gail Johnstone, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. "Together, they identified 16 cultural, health and human-services organizations to be invited to compete each year for grants from their fund. This year, the wellness center proposal focusing on at-risk populations was judged the most innovative of all proposals received and was the Perry Fund's single recipient."

"The center is a clearinghouse for the most up-to-date wellness information geared toward businesses, church programs and organizations," said Joan Dorn, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and principal investigator of the Wellness Works initiative. "The center will promote evidence-based information that helps organizations increase their employees' overall health fitness through wellness programming. It demonstrates the impact of wellness programming on lowering health care costs and absenteeism in the workplace."

The regional resource center offers a unique partnership with UB researchers, a board of directors comprised of area leaders in business, health assessments and health promotion programs. It also will work with UB's Center for Health and Human Performance, a campus-based facility that combines expertise in diet analysis and counseling, disease-risk analysis and fitness assessment and programming.

"One of the goals of the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions," said Dean Maurizio Trevisan, M.D., "is to partner with other organizations to improve the health of our entire community. This grant is an example of this type of collaboration. We thank Dr. J. Warren Perry and his late brother, Dr. Charles Donald Perry, for generously establishing this fund."

Besides Dorn, several other UB faculty members will continuously test the efficacy of Wellness Works programs in Western New York and translate these research results -- as well as those from other wellness studies -- into wellness information that organizations can easily use through the center. 

Founded in 1919, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is one of the oldest community foundations in the United States and the first in New York state, according to its Web site. The foundation made grants to the UB schools of Dental Medicine and Social Work in 2000 and to the UB School of Public Health and Health Profession's Center for Assistive Technology in 2002.

The UB School of Public Health and Health Professions' goal is to create an environment in which researchers, educators, public health and other health professionals, and students can work together to explore problems and produce innovative solutions to address emerging health needs for populations and individuals. The school has four departments and offers a master of public health program as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees. It is one of five schools that constitute UB's Academic Health Center.